I noticed a while back that Aria Kabob had closed. Then a couple of months later it reopened as Gyros N Kabob Cafe.
Still, I wasn't very motivated to try the place. Finally, I went in last month just to see what was up. The interior has changed a bit, but the "bones" look the same. I also quickly surmised that this was still an Afghan-style restaurant at it's roots.
In fact, the same gentleman who used to run Aria, runs this place too. There are still many of the other items I've tried at Aria on the menu here....borani bonjan and bolani gandana for example.
On my first visit, I decided to go with the Falafel-Gyro Platter ($10.99), opting for the lamb gyro.
This was a load of food! The falafel were not to my liking, dry and very bland. I did enjoy the lamb gyro though. I could tell that it was cut then heated, but the flavors were really good, nice spices, a bit gamey. Perhaps a bit on the dry side, but still, the flavor was right in the pocket for me.
Plus, they still serve the tangy and mildly spicy "chatni", which just makes everything taste better.
A couple of days later I was craving that chatni again, so I stopped by and ordered the Lamb Gyro Sandwich ($5.99).
I couldn't believe that this came with all those fries.....typical fast-food fries, but altogether not a bad value. I really enjoy the labni like, thick, strained yogurt on this sandwich, but there was a bit too much of it. The lamb gyro meat was kind of overshadowed by everything.
But hey, the really nice guy serving me knows I love the chatni so he made sure to get me a bowl. I ended up buying a bottle for home use.....the missus loves the stuff.
I recently returned for a lamb gyro fix and just stayed with the Lamb Gyro Plate ($8.99).
I think this is what I'll order from now on. The gyro is on the dry side, but I like the flavor, the labni and chatni help to moisten the gyro meat and the pile of rice below....heck, this kind of looks like a plate lunch, huh?
Sadly, I'm not sure how long this place will be in business. I've never seen another customer during my three visits. I gentleman who runs the place has always been nice to me, though food can take a bit longer since it's often a one man operation. I do need to return to see if the borani bonjan is still as good as I remember.
Gyros N Kabob Cafe 8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111 Hours: Mon - Sat 10am - 8pm Sunsay 11am - 7pm
We really haven't had any Afghan style food since Kabul Market closed a year or so ago. So I was fascinated when I noticed that an Afghan Restaurant called Aria Kabob Cafe was opening in the same strip mall as Pho Fusion. It took quite a few months for Aria Kabob Cafe to open, but a couple of weeks back it finally did.
I noticed the $3.99 breakfast and $4.95 lunch signs, wondering what the heck was going on. And was even more puzzled when I walked in and read the menu.......
Bagels? Eggs? Smoothies....... Hot Dogs?
For $4.95, you'd get a plate of rice and two items from a not so promising looking steam table (the Missus would later prove me wrong).
Looking a bit closer at the menu I noticed the type of dishes I was looking for.
I had a seat at one of the tables in the small dining area and placed my order.... and waited...and waited.... and waited. About thirty minutes later my Lamb Tika Kabob Plate ($8.99) arrived.
Looking at my plate.... well, I was a bit underwhelmed. The salad was totally mass produced packaged stuff, as was the pita. Digging in changed my opinion...... I loved the brown basmati rice.... in fact I texted the Missus telling Her that I was actually eating brown rice and enjoying it. The rice was fluffy, fragrant, and was prepared well. The tangy spicy "chatney" was good.... though I really enjoyed the yogurt based dressing on my cubes of lamb. There wasn't a ton of lamb, but it was very good. I was amazed at how well it was prepared and cooked, soft and tender, but not mushy, and seasoned with a restrained hand. The juices of the lamb had soaked into the pita which made it even more delicious. You knew you were eating lamb, but was not overwhelmed with the "flavor of the pasture" (though I do love gamey lamb). This was a very pleasant surprise......though everyone else was ordering the $4.95 lunch, salads, and the such. On my way out, the gentleman working apologized for the wait, and asked me how I enjoyed my meal. My response? "It was good, well worth the wait." Though think I'll be calling ahead during a work week lunch.
The Missus, shocked that I had actually eaten brown rice (something I've been cooking for Her for months), just had to check this place out. On our visit I told Her, "this may take a while, but you'll enjoy the food." She had the Lamb Tika Kabob and really enjoyed it. I tried one of my favorites, the Chapli Kabob, here it's very well seasoned ground beef patties ($6.99):
The patties had a nice char on the exterior, with some nice cumin-coriander hints. While eating this I noticed something........ I wasn't using any sumac. Neither was the Missus. I guess that we both thought the seasoning was just right for our tastes.... I did use a liberal amount of the "dressing", and the Missus loved the Chatney. In spite of the wait (35 minutes this time), we both enjoyed the meal..... so we returned a couple of nights later.
The Missus started with the Borani Bonjan ($3.49), roasted eggplant in a tomato based sauce, topped with drizzles of tangy yogurt.
There was a noticeable, though subdued amount of spice, and even with all these very strong flavors you could still taste the eggplant.
The Missus noticed that the steam table was still up and running, even though it was dinner time, and went for the "two plus rice"....... Two items from the steam table.
This came with a plate of the brown basmati rice..... the Missus loved the cauliflower... a lot.....
By this time, for some reason, I became curious about the Fried Hot Dog..... it just seemed so out of place on the menu. Because of that, there seemed to be some sort of reverse-exotic mystery to it. And even though the young man replied, "well, it's a hot dog..... that's fried" when I asked about it, I still ordered it. I told the young man I'd take the Fried Hot Dog, with three toppings ( the way he'd eat it). And what I got was this......
It really was a hot dog (all beef) that had been deep fried...... in this case topped with mayo-mustard-relish, in a sesame seed roll. Yes, just a hot dog.....really.
Though the other dish I ordered was quite good, the Pakawra ($2.95):
These well spiced potato fritters were the hottest item I tried here..... they are also quite addictive if a bit on the heavy side. I enjoyed these, as the layers of flavors along with the spice kept me interested.. This time, our meal arrived pretty quickly......
A couple of days later, the Missus wanted the brown rice and cauliflower from Aria. I dropped by to see if they still had some on the steam table. Unfortunately, they weren't serving that on this day. But the gentleman working here, by the name of Mike, had a solution for me. By this time he recognized me, and told me "if you can come back in 45 minutes, we'll make it fresh for your wife." How's that for service? So I went and did some shopping, returned after 45 minutes, and the Missus got Her food.
And loved it......
You know, Mike could have just said "we don't have that today" and be done with it, but he went the extra mile for us. That along with the food, both priced right and delicious will keep us coming back.
Aria Kabob Cafe 8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. San Diego, CA 92111
For dinner last night we dropped by another place on our regular rotation; Kabul Market.
Within the market is the House of Kabob a nice little gem on Convoy St. in the Clairemont Mesa area. Here you'll find some very tasty and reasonably priced Afghan food. In all honesty, I have no idea what Afghan food is. But I can truly say the food here is tasty. Today we had the Chapli Kabob (below) and the Chicken Kabob plate.
From what I can tell Chapli is basically (local standards) a Afghan Hamburger Steak very liberally flavored with various herbs and spices. It served with a green salad with a very tangy and tasty yogurt (again I'm guessing) dressing, rice pilaf seasoned with Sumac, Afghan Bread (Naan??), and a Chatni. All for $5.99!!!! Now I had no idea what Sumac is but here's a good description of it, we now have it at home it's an excellent additions to dressings, but like furikake' also really good on a nice bowl of rice! (Sorry, but I'm ready to "bust-out" the Chaw-wan at the earliest sign of starch!)
The Chicken Kabob is also really good, and today it was in fine form! Soooo tasty, spicy, a little tangy, a little herbaceous.
Now service may be a little slow, but this is a Mom and Pop operation. So place your order, and shop around the market. All meat are prepared in accordance with The House of Halal, and there are many pastries, herbs, and other provisions available.
Kabul Market 4425 Convoy Street, San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 514-8682